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Adam Thonif ll. d. 

isos-isao. 




AOAM THOrvI, LL.D. 

KIK!ST KIX'OKIJIOK OF Hiri»IORT\S I^AXl), 

Born, April -.'.Ut. Ksoj. Diud l-Vb. :il:,t, IS'.W. 



ADAM THOM. 



"THK 2!st (lay of February, 1890, is a date of exceptional signitioance in the 
' legal history of Western Canada. On tiiat day, at the advanced age 

of eighty-seven, in Ttirrington Hnuare, London, died Adam Tiiom, LL,1)., the 
first Recorder of Rupert's Land, and the fatiier of the Bencii and Bar of West- 
ern Canada. He was horn in Brechin, ami educated at King's College, Aber- 
deen, wiience he graduated M. A. in lSi4. About the year 1832, he emigrated 
to Canada, and in 1833 established and was tirst editor of tiie Settler. He was 
subsequently editor of the Montreal Herald in 1S36-38, read law in Montreal 
with Mr. James Charles Grant, and was called to the bar of Lower Canada in 
1837. The celebrated report of the Earl of Durham, on the state of British 
North America, was drawn up by Mr. Charles BuUer, with the assistance of 
Mr. Thorn. In fact according to the Law Times of March Ist, 1890, Mr. Thoni 
was considered to be the chief autlior of tJie report. Under the novi de plume 
of "Camillus," he wrote, in 1836, the memorable "Anti-Gallic Letters," ad- 
dressed to the Earl of (iosford, Governor-in-Chief of the Canadas. 

Some few j'ears after the establishment of the Governor and Council of As- 
siniboia, it became apparent to the Hudson Bay Company, that jurlicial pro- 
cedure should be instituted in Rupert's Land, on a more substantial basis, and 
in a more efficient manner, than liad been the case in the past. Accordingly, 
the General Quarterly Courts were formally established in 18.39, and Mr. Thorn 
arrived in the spring of that year at Red River, and entered upo"" his duties as 
Recorder of Ri-.pert's Land, with a salary attached to the office of £7U0 per an- 
num. In addition to the Recordership, he was the legal adviser to the (iov- 
emor of Assiniboia, who was inslructe<l to be guided by Mr. Thorn's advice in 
in matters of law. He was also senior member of the (Jovernor's Council, and, 
as such, virtually presided at the general court. The difficulties of Ijis posi- 
tion were many and of no trifling nature. The settlers persistied, and perhaps 
they might Ije excused fordoing so, in looking upon him, as not only the Re- 
corder, but the paid servant of the Hudson Bay Company; and while none 
ventured to iaipeuch his uprightness and integrity, yet the\' maintained 
thit, be he never so impartial, his interest being inseparable from that of the 
company, he could not be completely unbiased in his holdings. Be this as it 
may, there can be no doubt that l.e conscientiously discharged his duties in a 
manner that could scarcely be more satisfactory under the existing circum- 
stiinces, which required no little degree of tact Events progressed with as 
little friction as could be expected, till the famous trial of (iiiillaume Sayer, 
who in 1849 was charged with trading furs with the Indians. The display of 
armed force b^- the French half-breeds during the trial, and the demonstration 



whicli took place after it, brought matters to such a crisis that, in orde 
avoid a collision, Mr. Thoni retired from the bencli till some time in 1850. 
the space of about a year justice was mlministered by Major Caldv/ell 
(Jovernor of Assiniboia. A very complicated case of great importance — 
V. Felly — having arisen, Mr. Thorn again resumed his office for the purpoi 
the trial. The (Jovernment, however, disagreeing with Mr. Thorn on his 
ing, probabl}' because he would not find as the (iovernor wanted, man 
either to secure liis permanent removal or to force him to resign. He then 
1854— about four j'ears — acted as clerk of tlie court over which he had for 
ly preside<l, and with the same salary. In tlie beginning of September of 
year, Ije left Red River witli his wife and son and returned to Scotland, sa 
from York Factory on the 18th of October by H. B. ship Prince of Wales.* 
ISoO he received the honorary degree of LL.D from his old University, 
busy life did not prevent his retaining an interest in his former literary ca 
or from pursuing his studies, for in 1848 he published a work entitle-^ ' 
Chronology of Prophecy." It will not be out of place to make a few exti 
from (cmtemporary writers and travellers in regard to him. Major J. Wi 
Bondt who visited Red River, speaks of iiim as "a very leading man," 
was "very active, energetic and possessed of considerable talent." Bi 
Mountain^ found him "an exceedingly able man, possessing a varied ranj 
information, and deeply engaged, latterly, in biblical studies." Alex. Ri 
who considered the appointment of a Recorder rather in the light of a 
take, and was sometimes opposed to Mr. Thorn, yet states tha the was a * 
of talent and high attainment in his profession, "§ The Rev. John Ryt 
says that lie was "a gentleman of learning and superior ability in the 
profession." Hargrave thus feelingly refers to iiim: "I cannot close this 
sory glance at the official career of the pioneer of the law in the Red I 
Settlement without stating that at the close of his long and often unquiei 
journ of fifteen years in this singularly situated place, he left behind him 
reputation of great ability, and of kindly hospitality' in his private rela 
among those of his acquaintances best able to appreciate the former, and 
had shared in the latter." Mr. Thorn is principally known to the legal 
fession by his careful and elaborate judgment on the jurisdiction and po 
of the Hudson Bay Company, delivered in the celebrated case of James Ca 
on the 17th of August, 1848, contained in one of the old record books oi 
Quarterly Court. This judgment is of much value, and is entitled to 
weighty consideration than it has so far received; doubtless the fact c 
never having been printed is mainly responsible for this Quite irrespecti 
the merits of Mr Thorn, an especial interest attaches to him because o: 
having been the first lawyer in Rupert's Land, and of the unicjue positio 
occupied • A halo of romance is thrown around his name, when we pau 

*Hargrave's h'ed River, pp. 90. Ryer son's Hudson Bay, pp. 62, 106 et seq 
\ Miune'iola and its Kesoiirces I', appendix Cainp Fire Sketches. 
XJournal of the Bi'ihop of .Montreal, pp. '6'1. 
ifA'ed A'iver Settlerient, pp. 224. 
%Hiidscn Bay, pp. 63. 



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think of tlie vast extent of his jurisdiction, and the wild and peculiar people 
over whom that jurisdiction was exercised, anil that to the extent of capital 
punishment. How wonderful the change since then! Mr. Thoni liad l)een for 
so many jears a stranger to this country, tiiat his name was hut rar-ily men- 
tioned, even in legal circles, and most of those wlu) thought of him regarded 
him as no longer among the living. None the less is he entitled to a prominent 
place in the early historv of Rupert's Land, whose Itest interests he faitiifully 
strove to serve. The members of tlie bar of Western Canada mtiy congratulate 
themselves that they have Mr Thoin as their precursor; and it is no di*par- 
ageinent to the Bench to say, that his life will bear favoralde comparison with 
any judge who has succeeded him. — Western Law Times, May, 1S9(>. 



In the winter of 1S82, while staying in London, wliich the subject of tliis 
.^ket>!h used facetiously to c dl "the wen of tiie world,"' the writer often met a 
retired old gentleman frequently known as " ludge Thom," wiio had more than 
40 years before made his entree to Red River Settlement as Hrst Recorder of 
Rupert's Land. At the time of meeting in London, tiie judge had entered his 
eightieth year. He was tall, and, though walking with a slight stoop, was of 
connnanding presence. He was what people usually call a man of marked in- 
dividuality His opinions were all formed; he had views on any matter that 
came up for discussion; aud was very fond of a talk with a passing friend. In 
conversation with the old gentleman, it would be at once noticed that he liad a 
large fund of information, and to any visitor from Manitoba it was surprising 
to see how the lapse of .30 years' absence from the country' had not effaced a 
line from memory in regard to the affairs of all the families of that time resi- 
dent in Red River. In fact. Judge Thom had a marvellous mind for details. 
Some would no doubt have calle<l him loquacious, but to most he was a very 
interesting man. Dr. Thom's Aberdonian accent had not been greatly soften- 
ed by his colonial residence, nor by his subsequent sojourn in London. In 
speech and ideas the judge was a strong man, an<l it will be our pleasing duty 
this evening to have the outlines of his somewhat eventful life, which endeil 
a little more than two months ago. 

Adam Thom was born in Brechin, Forfarshire, on the 31st August, 1S(I2, 
and had the remembrance to the last of having ^een, in his third year, the 
great rejoicing that took place after Nelson's great victory at the battle of 
Trafalgar, October 21st, 1805. In the year 1819, young Thom entered King's 
College, Aberdeen, where he was a successful student and graduated in 18J4 



The following are a list of his prizes during his University career: 
2nd prize for Latin, April, 1820. 1st prize for Nat. Philosophy,. \p 1822. 

1st " Greek, April, 1820. 2nd " (Jreck, April, 1822. 

Ist •' Nat. Philosophy.Ap. 1821. Prize for Latin, April, 1822. 

1st " Latin, April, 1821. 1st prize for Moral Philosophy.Ap '23 

3rd •• Greek, April, 1821. Lst prize for (ireek, April, 1823. 

Prize for Latin, April, 1823. 



w ith the degree of Master of Arts. It was in the secoml year of his coi 
Al>er(leen that lie met with one who, far away on the plains of Rupert's 
was to be his intimate frieml and companion, whom indeed he was to o 
"alter ego " Tliis was John McCallum, of whom we shall speak more 
and who it will be remembered founded the school, which became in tin 
dohn's College in this city. Scotland was then, as now, sending up its 
men to the great metropolis, which contains more Scotchmen tliau Edinl 
and in 18*25 both Thorn and liis fellow student McCallum found then; 
earning their bread there as classical masters in schools at \^ oolwic 
Blackheath respectively. 

About this time, a greit outflow of the British people was taking plr 
the New World. In the year 1831, upwards of .30,000 people left the } 
Isles for Canada. Over pressure of population and political discontent w 
doubt the chief factors in this great emigrati(m. In the fcdlowing year, . 
ular movemei;t to (Canada was headed in the south of England by Lord 
mont, and three ships carried the Sussex colony to the St. Lawrence ' 
enterprising mind of j'oung Thorn the opportunities said to be afforded b^ 
ada were a great attraction, and so taking the last ship of the season 
tlie Kosaliihi, from London, after a rougli passage, the vessel running ag 
at Anticosti in the St. Lawrence, the young adventurer reached Mor 
Carried away by the New World fever in the following year, his friend 
Calluin also accepted tlie task, under the patronage of the Rev. David , 
the Hudson Bay Chaplain at Red River, of founding a boarding school f 
chililren of the Hudson Bay ciuupany officers and others at the headqu 
of the company; and sailed by the company's siiip early in 1833 t> cor 
way of Hudson Bay, to the scene of his future labors. Young Thorn 
lished in .Montreal a paper called T>'ie Settler, of which he was the chief 
and principal contributor, aided by some members of the "'Beefsteak 
which then e.xisted there, of which the late James Charles (Jrant was on£ 
also entered on the study of law in Montreal, and with such diligence 
having his time shortened by one year because of his degrees, he was adi 
to the bar of Lower Canada in the year 1837. 

To any of Mr. Thorn's friends it was evident that there was in him 
end of his life a strange restlessness of disposition. It agrees completelj 
this that he should not have settled down to the routine of a lawyer's life, 
disposition led him to take great interest in public affairs. He was in r 
characteristics something of an independent thinker, and yet his concl 
were usually rather stai<l and ordinary. His mental bias was evidently 
of a radical, while ids social disposition leil him to somewhat cling to :pi 
ing ideas and customs. In method, he was a radical; in fa«t, he wai 
servative. It will be necessary to bear in mind this somewhat striking 
inoniousmess, in order to understand some of the episodes of his life. Affi 
Montreal at this time were in a strained condition. It was shortly befo 
rebellion of 1837. The British colony in Lower Canada held the reins of p 
the French Canadians were in a highly dissatisfied state. Louis Papinea 
stirring up his French compatriots. In liis .^editions career he came out 1 



DP Republican principles. "Tlie time ha<l grme by," said Papineau, "when 
Europe could give monarchs to America. The epoch is approaching when 
Imerica will give republics to Europe."' Now Adam Thom, though, no doubt 
yinpathising with the just claim of the French Canadians for stlf government, 
ras intensely British in feeling, and therefore entered with grea'- ardour into 
he discussions then going on. Well educated, fond of society, w hich in Mon- 
real was entirely under the contnd of the ruling powers, an<l with his career 

make, the young lawyer threw himself into the wordy warfare, and wrote 
he Anti-Gallic Letters, signed "Camillus," remembered for many a <lay for 
heir anti-French fervor and power; and also those signed "Anti-Burtaucrat," 
riticising the petition of the revolutionists of Lower Canada, presented to the 
»ritish House of Commons; l)oth of which series of letters were afterwards 
ublished in separate form. For a time he oocunied tiie position of editor of 
he leading English journal of Lower Canada, the Montreal Herald. His prom- 
lence as a publicist naturally drew to him the attention of the Earl of Dur- 
am, who arrived in Canada on his mission of pacification on Maj' '29tli, 1838. 
'his brilliant nobleman, whose manliness and earnestness in assailing the ex- 
iting abuses in Canada called forth from a French-Canadian writer the acknow- 
sdgement that "he was one of the truest friends misruled Canada ever had," 
nd who did more for Canada in the short six months cf his stay in the New' 
^'orld tiian any other (iovernor-(ieneral in his full term, had the faculty of as- 
jciating with himself men of the greatest ability. As to the great report, 

hich was, at the time, described "as one of the ablest and most important 
tate papers of this age, "Justin McCarthy says of him in his "History of our 
•wn Times," "His policy for the Canadas was a great success. It established 
le principles of a colonial government." With him cm his staff Lord Durham 
ad brought over, as secretaries and assistants, tlsree men of exceptional abil- 
;y — Mr. Charles Buller (after«ards the Right Hon. Charles Buller, member 
f tlie British House of Commons); the brilliant though somewhat wayward 
Idward (iibbon Wakefield; and Thomas Turton, a very clever barrister. To 
vis group of able assistants the young lawyer, Adam Thom, was added, and 

1 the train of the great Liberal Statesman he returned to (ireat Britain in the 
utuma of 1838, where he spent the winter in London. 

In 1835 the Hudson's Bay C'ompeny received br.ck from the Earl of Sel- 
irk's heirs the transfer of the District of Assiniboine, which had been sold 
) the Earl in 181 1. As the population of the Settlement had grown by this 
me to about 5,000 souls, it was deemed wise to have established some simple 
>rm of legal institutions. A council of fifteen members appointed by the Hud- 
)n Bay Company met at Fort Garry on the 12th of February of that year, and 
assed certain ordinances; .\mong these was one dividing the settlement into 
mr districts, and establishing a quarterly court in each of these competent to 
eal with small amounts. Each of thesis courts was empowered to refer a'ly case of 
Dubt or difficulty to the Court of (iovernor and Council of Assiniboine, as the 
ed River Legislature and Judicial body was called. The establishment of a 
ourt of Appeal, such as had Ijeen decided on, and the fact that the Governor 
" the Colony was sometimes a trader and at other times a military officer, le<l 
le Company to consider the necessity of appointing a trained lawyer to adju- 



(licate in such cases as might arise, and to give legal ailvice to the Company in 
its complicated business. Alexander Ross argues at some length against the 
need of this, hut his reasons shov he had little comprehension of the principles 
im which alone communities can advance. Sir (ieorge Simpson had met the 
young lawyer and political writer in Montreal, and offered Mr. Thorn, on the 
completion of his engagement with Lord Durham, the new judgeship then de- 
cided on; and, accordingly, the first Recorder of Rupert's Land, or he is also 
called the President of the Red River Court, left England, came by May of 
New York, and reached Fort (iarry in the spring of 1839 Sir (ieorge Simpson 
was credited with great shrewdness in making the appointments for the Hud- 
son Bay Company. It is evident from the very considerable salary — £7(10 
sterling a year— paid the new jiulge at a time when incomes were ridiculously 
low on Red River, as well as from tiie unanimous opinions of Ross, Bishop 
Mtmntain, Rev. John Ryerson, an<l James Hargrave, the historian of the Hud- 
s(m Bay Company, that A<lam Tliom was a man of decided ability, upright 
character and very extensive reading It would seem to one now that a law- 
yer w ho had practised longer at the bar, and who had not been so pronounced 
as a publicist in Montreal, would hive made a more impartial judge; but the 
fact that for ten years he administered law in the courts without complaint, 
would seem to show that the troubles, which arose in the later years of his 
judgesiiip, arose rather from the inevitable conflict between the Company and 
the people than from an}- fault of his. 

We turn aside, for a little, to look at the career of Mr. Thom's college 
fiiend, John McCallum, who, as we have seen, came in 1833 to Red River, to 
establish what to-day lias become St. John's College, with its affiliated schools; 
and it may lie premised that >n him we hive one of the truest and most practi- 
cal men of the old Red River Settlement. With the aiil of his superior, Rev. 
Mr. Jones, buildings were erected between the soutliwest corner of the pres- 
ent St. John's ciiurchyard and the river bank. In the year 1836, Mr. McCal- 
ium married the daughter ui Chief Factor Charles, of the H.B. Co. The school 
steadily grew , and five years afterits founding, Rev. Mr. Jones returned to Eng- 
land. Mr. McCallum then became head of the institution, so that, when the old 
friends from Aberdeen met at Red River, the one, Judge Thom, was the head 
of the legal, the other, McCallum, of the educational interests of the wide ex- 
tent of Rupert's Land. Originally, the boarding school had been begun under 
the auspices of tiie Chiircii .Missionary Society, but at the time of the visit to 
Red River, in 1844, of Dr. Mountain, Bishop of Montreal, a change had taken 
place, for he says, "It is now conducted by Mr. McCallum on his own accouut 
with the help of an allowance from the company. It is really a nice establisl' 
ment, and the premises attached to it have more neatness and finish than is 
common in young and remote settlements. The youths have a separate gar- 
den for their own amusement." Mr. McCallum had by his patience and indus- 
try taken such a hold on the community, that on the visit of the Bishop of 
Montreal it was deemed advisable to onlain him, wh^ch event took place on 
on the 7th of July, 1844. Mr. McCallum's duties not only included the school 
but for the next three years the incum!)ency of the parish church, which then 
reckoned amongst its hearers all the people of Kildonan. Judge Thom had for 



several years taken up his abode at Lower Fort Garry. Tn theye.ir 1846, the 
British Government, being in the midst of the contention v.ith tlie United 
States over the Oregon (jiiestion and probably on account the enforce- 
ment of the Company's claims, thought it wise to send t)ut tlie 6th 
Royal regiment to Red River. The Lower Fort being recjuired for the troops, 
.Judge rhoni was compelled to seek quarters elsewhere, and seems to have 
lived, for a year, three or four miles to the north of the fort. In 1847, he 
purchased the house, then just built by Chief Factor Charles, now known as 
Bishop's Court, the seat of the Metropolitan of Rupert's Land. Judge Thorn 
refers with peculiar pleasure to the changes which had made him "door neigli- 
bor" to his old friend McCallum, "with nothing but a paddock between " 
The school was now at its height for there were in it more than fifty paying 
pupils, including girls. From it came A. K. Isbister, one of the most distin- 
guished men born in Ri.pert's Land, and to the "MeCalliun school" members 
of the older generation of Red River settlers look back witli fond affection Sad 
indeed was it for education and religion on Red River that .\Ir. McCallum died 
in 1849. Judge Thorn became his executor, and Bishop Anderson, the first 
bishop of Rupert's Land, arrived just in time to perform the funeral services of 
the worthy teacher. 

On Mr. McCallum's death, the school immediately began to decline. Bishop 
Anderson was so busy with the other duties of his office, that the institution 
was suffered to languish In 1855, a reorganization was attempted, a number 
of the leading people of the country were formed into a college board, the name 
of St. John's College was chosen, and the coat of arms, with tlie beautiful 
motto, "In Thy Light shall we see Light," adopted. In three or four years, 
the want of success compelled the closing of the college. In 1865 the present 
Bishop of Rupert's Land arrived at Red River. The McCallum school build- 
ings had become a ruin. On his leaving on his first journey in his diocese, the 
bishop gave ordere that they should be pulled down. This was partially done, 
but the central building was thought good enough to be preserved. It was ac- 
conlingly spared, and those who have come to Manitoba even in recent, years 
may remember the house occupied by the Rev. Samuel Pritchard— the remnant 
of the McCallum buildings. Bishop Machray refounded St. John's College in 
1860, from which time it has had an ever increasing and prosperous existence. 
In memory of Mr, McCallum, his widow an<l daughter presented at various 
times to St. John's College an excellent anemometer a good microscope and 
other instruments, etc, J udge Thorn always took a deep interest in St. John's 
College, being one of its honorary fellows; and was also a benefactor of the 
Manitoba (Presbyterian) College. 

From his high position and public sympathies, Ju<Ige Thom became a most 
iniluential man in the Red River Settlement, He had a marvellous gift, of lan- 
guages. He was exceedingly approachable, and his ardent temperament led 
him to do all sorts of kind services for those who sought his assistance. When 
the Bishopric of Rupert's Land was founded he became the Registrar; 
when the Kildonan church wanted a deed, he drew it up, and made it so firm 
in its provisions that when changes were necessary a few years ago in the ten- 



8 

ure they were very difficult to make. Though the agent of the Hudson Bay 
Company, atnd therefore bound to carry out the policy of the Company, as to 
not encouraging the entrance of too many religious bodies on Red River, he is 
said to have Imd a hand at the same time in framing tlie petitions forwarded to 
London by the Presbyterians of Kildonan. The Rev. John Ryerson, on his 
visit to Reil River in 1854, tells of bis going down to Kildonan to hear a lec- 
ture from Judge Thom "On the state and progress of the Red River Settle- 
ment," and the hearer says that the subject was treated "with great eloquence, 
beauty and ability." In the Council held at Fort (larry, the judge was a lead- 
ing spirit; and we are told that by the people generally "his influence was re- 
garded as disproportionately great " The Council being looked upon as the in- 
strument of the Hudson's Bay Company, it is quite evident that his being a 
ruling influence in that body would subject him to severe criticism by the peo- 
ple, and that to a certain extent his influence as a Judge would be lost. As al- 
ready stated, the relations of the settler« on the Red River to the Hudson 
Bay Company had Income very unsatisfactory. The Companj', b}' their char- 
ter, no doubt had a monopoly of the fur trade. But the mass of the people be- 
ing hunters, and finding it difficult to gain a living otlierwise, hardly recognized 
this— and indeed the Company had not enforced their claim. For some reason, 
according to some, on Judge Thom's advice — it was decided to enforce the 
right of Company. Accordingly, in 1844, Governor Christie issued two procla- 
mations, one of them requiring each settler, before the Company would carry 
any goo<ls for him, to make a <leclaration that for the past winter he had not, 
directly or indirectly, engaged in the fur trade; the other proclanvition re- 
quired the writer of any letter, which was sent by post to write his name on 
the outside, an<l should he not have made the declaration required as to trading 
in furs, then his letter must be deposited in the office, open, to be examined 
before being sent. These were tyrannical and severe enactments. Cases are 
cited in wliich settlers, traders and even missionaries, were caused much incon- 
venience and loss by these stringent regulations. The governor and the legal 
adviser, Judge Thom, nature lly received the greater part of popular disappro- 
val. The French half-breeds took the lead in the agitation against the Com- 
pany. A strange story is related as to the way in which the English half- 
breeds who had Jiitherto supported the claim of the Company, came to throw 
in their lot with their French fellow-countrymen. A company officer had left 
his two daughters at Fort (iarry to be educated. One of them was the object 
of the affection of a young Scotch half-breed, apd at the same time of a young 
Highlander. The young lady is said to have preferred the Metis, but the fond 
parent favored the young Highlander The Scotchman, fortified by the fa- 
tlier's approval, proceeded to upbraid the .Metis for his temerity in aspiring to 
the hand of one so high in society as the lady. As love ruined Troy, so it is 
said this affair joined French and English half-breeda in a union to defeat the 
Company. 

During the five years after the publication of the proclamation, a constant 
agitation was going on among the French. The leader of this uproar bore a 
name better known to the present generation as that of his son, Louis Riel. 
Riel, the elder, was born at Isle a la Crosse, and was the son of a French-Ca- 



9 

nadian father and a French half-breed mother. He was educated in Lower- 
Canada, came to the Northwest to enter the service of the Company, and was 
for two years a novice in the Oblate order. He afterwards l)uilta water mill 
on the Seine, three or four miles from St. Boniface, made a canal nine miles 
long to feed it, and was married to one of the well-known Lagimodiere family, 
and from this union sprang Louis Riel of rebellion notoriety. The miller of 
the Seine was a very capable man; had a great power over his fellow-country- 
men, and was a born agitator. When popular feeling had been thoroughly 
roused, it happened that in 1849 (iuillaume Sayer, a French half-breed trader, 
bought goods, intending to go on a tra<ling expedition to Lake Manitoba. It 
was determined to arrest Sayer and three of his associates. This was done, 
but Sayer alone was kept in prison. 

As the day of the trial drew near, the excitement grew intense. (Governor 
Caldwell was known to be obstinate. Judge Thorn, it was rememl)ere(l, had 
written the famous "Anti-CJallic letter" in Montreal; he was, moreover, said 
to be the director of the policy of rotriction, and a strong Company man. The 
day of trial had been fixed for Ascension day. May 17th, and this was taken 
as a religious affront by the French. The court was to meet in the morning. 
On the day of the trial, hundreds of French Metis, armed, came from all the 
settlements to St. Boniface church, and, leaving their guns at the door of the 
church, entered for service. At the close, they gathered together, and were 
addressed in a fie"y oration by Louis Riel. A fellow-countryman writing of 
the matter says: "Louis Riel obtained a veritable triumph on that occasion, 
and long and loud the hurrahs were repeated by the echoes of the Red River." 
Crossing by way of Point Douglas, the Metis surrounded the unguarded court 
house at Fort Garry. The governor and Ju<lge arrived and look their seats at* 
eleven o'clock. A curious scene then ensued, the magistrates protesting 
against the violence, Reil in loud tones declaring that they would give the tri- 
bunal one hour, and that if justice was not done, then they would do it them- 
selves An altercation then took place between Judge Thom aud Riel, and 

with his loud declaration: '■'■ Et je declare que dis ce moment Sayer est lihre" 

drowned by the shouts of tlie Metis, the trial was over, and Sayer and his 
fellow prisoners betook themselves to freedom while the departing Metis cried 
out: *'• Le commerie at lihre ! le commerce est lil'te ! V've la Hire!" This crisis 
was a serious one. Judge Thom, at the suggestion of Sir (ieorge Simpson, did 
not take his place on the bench for a year, though he still held his position and 
his emoluments. It was the end of the attempt of the Company to enforce its 
distasteful monopoly 

The constitution of the Court at Fort Garry made it quite possible for 
the Recorder to absent himself, and for the (iovernor and associated magis- 
trates to carry on the business. About a year after the Sayer affair, a very 
complicated case arose in which what would be called the leaders of society at 
Fort Garry Mere involved. It was a quarrel of Company officials, Capt.Foss, 
staff officer of the pensioners, brought an action for defamation of character 
against Trader Pelly and his wife and two other persons for connecting his 
name dishonorably with the family of the gentleman in charge of Fort Garry. 



10 

fJovernor Simpson an<J Jiulge Tliom examined into tlie case privately, and on 
the occasion of the trial Judge Thorn took his seat again as Recorder, though 
apparently much to the displeasure of Governor Caldwell. After this, for a 
year, with the approval of Simpson, the Recorder did not sit. Records of 
other cases tlian those mentioned are found to-day in proceeilinijs. Up to the 
year 184" the work done by Judge Thorn seems to have been very satisfactory 
and efficient. Col. Crofton testified that in 1S47 the legal business was done 
in a perfectly smooth and successful manner. In 1848, Judge Thom delivered 
judgment on the Calder case, involving the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay 
C jnipany, and that has been quoted with approval as an important opinion in 
tlie Supreme Court of Canada by a prominent Q C. of this city. 

Fifteen j'ears of service in the remote and ir^olated settlement of Red River 
had enabled the Recorder to accumulate a handsome competence His friend 
McCallum was dead, and the troubles between the Company and the people 
made it disagreeable for the well abused judge to remain in his New 
World sphere. He accordingly resigned, and returning by way of 
York Factory sailed from that port in the Company's ship, "The 
Prince of Wales," on the 20th of September, 1854, with his wife and 
son. On the vessel was the Arctic explorer, Dr. Rae, who had just 
found the first traces of Sir John Franklin; and also the Rev. John Ryer- 
son, who has left a written account of the voyage, which proved to be tedious 
and dangerous, taking nearly six weeks to London. In the second year after 
his return. Judge Thom received the honorary degree of L.L.D., from his own 
University at Aberdeen, in recognition of his attainments; and on the granting 
of a constitution for a university of Manitoba, in 1877, he was nominated one 
of the first six Honora:7 Fellows of St. John's College, He lived at Edinburgh 
in what might seem to be his declining years, but removed to London in 3870, 
an<l took up his abode in his well known residence, 49 Torrington Square, a 
score of years longer. The family of his departed friend were a constant care 
to him. For them he always showed a passionate regard. 

The Bishop of Montreal, on his visit to Fort Garry, in 1844, mentions that 
at that time Recorder Thom "was deeply engaged latterly in Biblical studies." 
In 1821, at Al)erdeen he had joined the Hebrew class. But like num- 
bers of great students he had become involved in the seemingly hopeless 
mazes of the interpretation of the prophecies of Scripture. In 1847, he com- 
pleted for publication liis work, entitled "The Chronology of Prophecy," on the 
typical character of what he calls "Abraham's 430 years." An active mind like 
that of Judge Thom must have something on which to work. In not having 
enough to till up his time and utilize his energies, he must have some abstruse 
line of study. His mind seems to have had a bent towards mathematics, and 
his inclination and probably early training led him to a minute study of the Bi- 
ble, even in the original tongues. As showing his bent toward figures, the 
writer remembers Judge Thom saying that he never got into a London omnibus 
—many of whose figures run up into the thousands — without resolving the 
number into its factors, and combining them in every possible manner. 
Nothing delighted him so much as to get an appreciative listener, and to refer 



11 

for an hour at a time to the marvellous events of history, and to show that 
they were not isolated, but were part of a great system of development. 

In summing up the life of the first Judge of Rupert's Land, it is evident we 
are dealing \\ith a man of great activity and capacity. He was perfectly at 
home in the Greek and Latin classics; he was a Hebrew scholar and well- ac- 
quainted with our own literature. He was well versed in law , and gave his 
opinions with fullness and decision. An active newspaper writer in his earlier 
days, he always maintained a lively interest in public affairs. It was liis mis- 
fortune to be ousted between the two strong forces of a great trading com- 
pany's interest, and the natural aspirations of a people after freedom. No doubt 
this wounded his proud spirit deeply, and prevented him from ever visiting 
the Red River again as he would have liked to have done. He was no trimmer; 
he was not even politic. He had strength of feeling and tenacity of purpose 
Though somewhat difficult to work with, yet he was open and at heart kind 
and considerate. Passing away as he did on the '21st of February of this year 
(1890), in his eighty-eighth year, in a quiet old age, we may well drop a sym- 
pathetic tear to the memory of the honest old warrior. — From the Records of 
the Historical and Scientific Society of Aianitoba (iSgo.) 

P.S. — In our former sketch of the life of this very able man, so inseparably 
connected with the early history of this country, we expressed a desire to ob- 
tain his portrait. We have, we are very glad to say, been able at last to do so, 
and have had the same repro<luced for the benefit of the profession and the 
public. We can inform our readers that the likeness is a faithful one, chosen 
for that special reason, and is taken from an amateur photograph of Dr. Thorn 
when "at ease" in his sitting room, and in his 72nd year. — llestern Law 'limes. 



OLD TIMES. 

The following appeared in the Fergus News- Record, to which the late Mr. A. 
Dingwall Fordyce contributed articles on "Old time Incidents in Fergus," 
with allusions to various families and persons wlio lived there. Among them is 
the following reference to the late Mr. John Tullideph Thorn: — 

"An imexpected concurrence of circumstances has given me the opportunity 
of saying something of this family, beyond wliat v\as shown previously in con- 
nection witli these Old Times incidents They did not reniain more than a few 
months in Fergus, but moved at once to Cleveland, Ohio, where Mr. Thorn died 
in less than a year, on 14th of July, 1849. They had returned to Canada on 
the husband am', father's death. A son of a former marriage, wliose mother, I 
believe, died in 18;W at Lockport, has now, I understand, an appointment in 
the (Government dockyard in San Francisco. In connection with the foregoing 
statement a passing word is due to an elder brother of Mr. Jolin T. Thom— tiie 
more especially as they were referred to as cousins of the late Hon. Adam Fer- 
gusson, a fact which no doubt iiad led the younger to contemplate establishing 



12 

liiinself in lousiness in Fergus. They would not unnaturally be called cou&ins 
of Mr. p'ergusson. iiltliough tliere was no actual l»loo<l relationship An aunt of 
Mr. Fergusson's li;i<l been tiie first wife of the Rev. Dr. Bisset, for forty years 
mi lister of Logic l^ait, Pertlisliire, whose second wife (a daughter of the Rev. 
T. Tullideph, Principal, for nearly forty years, of St. Andrew's University, 
Scotland, and also one of the Royal C liaplaina for fifteen years before hi;« death 
in ITT'i, was the maternal gran<lmotlier of the brothers Adam and John T. 
'lhon>. The uncle by marriage of these two, and the full cousin of the Hon. 
.Adam Fergusson, was Robert Bisset, LL T)., known in his day as the author of 
several historical works. Adam Thorn, LL. I)., the ehler brother, died in Feb. 
1890, in London, Kiigland, at tlie age of 87. He was a man of much ability, 
energy and independence of mind, accompanied by purity of motive in all rela- 
tions, pulilic or })rivHte. At his death he was Father of the Bench and Bar in 
Western Canada. For sixteen years he was Judge of Rupert's Land, from 
which he retired in l8oo, when he left Canada for his native land. He pro- 
Tuoted every effort to ailvance the cause of education and morality in his adopt- 
ed country while he remained. He was, besides, a student of Hebrew, and in 
1848 publisiie<l a work entitled the "'Chronology of Prophecy," and he was very 
liighly and universally respected. This at least may be either gathered or in- 
ferred from a sliort memoir which appeared in the IVestern Law Times, and 
whicli also contains several interesting and well considered charges addressed 
to (jran<l -Juries on some important trials during his official life." 

The Rev. Tliomas Bisset's first wife was Ann, daughter of the Rev. Adam 
Fergusson, minister of Moidin, and Moderator of the (Jeneral Assembly of the 
Kirk of Scotland in 1772, by Amelia, daughter of Captain James Menzies, of 
Comry, and niece of Sir Robert Menzies, of Weem, Bart., and of John, first Earl 
of Breadalbane Mrs. Bisset's brother was Neil Fergusson, of Pitcullo, Sheriff 
Depute of Fife, who, by his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir George Colquohoun, 
Bart., had a son, the Honorable Adam Fergusson, of Woodhill, Upper Canada, 
Member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, and one of the founders 
of Fergus, Out. 



JAMES BISSET, Clerk of the Regality Court of Athol, about 1720, had 
three sons: — 

I. — Thomas Bisskt, of Glenalbert. 

n. — Patrick Bii^skt. 

III. — Rev. Robkkt Bisset. 

I.— Thomas Bisskt, of Glenalbert, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, first ("old") 
Commisiary of Dunkeld, and Baron Baillie to the Duke of Athol. 
He married, the 31st of May, 1713, Margaret, daughter of Alexander 
Stewart, second si>n of Patrick Stewart, of Ballechin, in the parish of Logierait, 



13 

Perthshire (grandson of Sir James Stewart, of Ballechin, by Marie, sister of 
the "admirable" Chrichton), and died in Feb. 1774, leaving: — 

1. James Bisset, the "young" Commissary. 

2. Charles Bisset, M.D., born at Glenalbert, 1717, author of a "Narrative 
of Experiments on a Chalybeate Spring at Knayton." Die<l at Knayton, 
near Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1791, leaving two daughters, Penelope, married 

to Rev. Dr. Addison, Thirsk; and , married to William Walker, 

Thirsk. 

3. Thomas Bisset, born June 1722. left (1) Thomas; (2) Charles; (3) Rear 
Admiral James Bisset, R.N., born 1760, died at Edinburgh, 1824. 

4. Robert Bisset, born July, 1729. Captain 5l8t Foot: Commissary-general 
in tlie armj-; aide-de-camp to (Jcmeral Lord (reorge Sackville at the battle of 
Minden. He died on May 27, IHll, at (xreat Pulteney street, London, leaving 
a son Robert, Major 42nd Regt. ; killed in Egypt; d. s. p. 

5. David Bisset, d. s. p. 

6. Margaret Bisset, married 1st, Mr. Dick, and had a daughter married to 

the Hon. Mr. Maitland. 2ndly, Duncan, of Tippermalloch, and had 

a daughter Bessie, married to Fleming, of Moness. 

7. Bisset, married to Robert Stewart, in Strath Tay. 

II. Patrio; Bisset, a farmer in Logierait, Perthshire, had: — 

1. Thomas Bisset, second Commissary of Dnnkeld; born 1722; married 
Mrs. Janet Mack, and died in 1788, leaving:~(l) John Bisset, Major 9th Foot, 
died 1814, leaving:— John James Patrick Bisset, Lieut. R. M. A., killed in ac- 
tion at the seige of Algiers, under Lord Exmouth. in 1816; Daniel Bisset, 
Colonel R. Art.; Caroline Bisset, married to John Mackenzie, Lieut. 1st W, I. 
Regt., bv whom she had Rev. John George Delhoste Mackenzie, M. A., Incum- 
bent of St. Paul's Church, Yorkville, and afterwards Inspector of (irammar 
Schools for the Province of Ontario. (Among his children are (Jeo. A. McKen- 
zie, barrister, Toronto; Ernest Mackenzie, and J. B. Mackenzie, author of 
'•The Six Indian Nations in Canada," etc. (2) Thomas Bisset; (3) Jean, mar- 
ried Dec 30, 1787, Alexander Stewart, of Bonskied. 

2 Patrick Bisset, n.erchant in Perth. He had ( 1) Sir JohnBisset, K. C. H. , 
K. C B., of Rickup, near Duukeld, Commissary of the Forces during the 
Peninsular War. Died in Perth 1854. (2) James Bisset, in the army. (3) 
Thomas Bisset, of Demerara. (4) Patrick Bisset, a lawyer in Dunkeld; for 
twenty years clerk of the ancient commissariat of Dunkeld, and afterwards for 
31 years clerk of the Commissariat of Perlhshire. Born 1779 at Dunkeld, 
ilied unmarried in 1855. (5) Helen. (6) Marjory. (7) Isobel. (8) Elizabeth. 
(9) Margaret, married to David Ford, and had a daughter married to Mr. Dou- 
gall, whose daughter married the Rev. J. Howell a Congregational minister. 

3, Margak-et Bisset married — Campbell. 

4. Mary Bisset married — Blackie, Aberdeen. 



14 

5. Isobel Bisset marrieil — Thomas. 

6. Jean BisBet mariied — Duff. 

III. Rev. Robkrt Bisset. born 1696. A. M., St. Andrew's University, 
1718. Minister of Kirkmichael 1720-25, of Blair Athol 1725-39. He married 
Elizabeth Crichton, and dying in Feb. 1739, left : 

1. Rev. Thomas Bisset, born 1731, A.M.,St. Andrew's University 1750, D.D. 
J787. Minister of Lngierait, Perthshire, lv54-1800. He published a volume of 
sermons m Inch have been described as "practical and useful, "and also translated 
Mylius' "History of the Bishops of Dunkeld. He died in October, 1800. He 
married, first, in April, 1758, Ann Fergusson (died June 8, 1759) daughter of 
Rev Adam Fergusson, Minister of Moulin, and Mo<lerator of the general As- 
sembly of the Kirk of Scotland in 1772, and sister of Neil Fergusson, of Pit- 
cullo, Sheriff Depute of Fifeshire (father of Hon. Adam Fergusson, of Uood- 
hill. Upper Canada, Member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, who 
died in 1862), and had by her:— (1) Robert Bisset, LL.D., Edinburgh Univer- 
sity, author of The Life of Edmund Burke, The Reign of George III., A 
Sketch of Democracy, etc. He married .Mary, daughter of Robert Robinson, 
and grand daughter of David Gavine, of Langton Park, Berwickshire, and had 
two daughters, Catharine, a pianist of some celebrity, and Elizabeth, a harp- 
ist and composer of great talent. 

The Rev Tliomas Bisset married, secondly, in April, 1767, Mary (died 
1785), daughter of Rev. Thomas Tullideph, D. I) , Professor of Divinity in St. 
Andrew's University; Principal of the University 1739-77;; Moderator of the 
General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland in 1742; one of the Royal Chaplains 
in Scotland of (ieorge III, 1761-77 (son of Rev. John Tullideph, Minister of 
Drumbarnie, 1691-1714, by Jean, daughter of Rev John Knox, Minister of 
Nortii Leith, and grandson of William Tullideph, Principal St. Leonard's Col- 
lege, St. Andrews, Fife, 1691-95). The Rev. Thomas Bisset had by his second 
wife (2) Thomas, bom Mar. 1, 1768, drowned at Perth; (3) John Bisset, born 
22 May, 1769, died Dec. 1783; (4) Adam Bisset, born August, 1770; a wine 
merchant in Leith (Somerville & Co. ^i had among others: — Alexander Bisset, 
married his cousin, Frances Thom; James Somerville Bisset, of Spring Gardens, 
Jamaica, died 1826; Ellen Bisset, who, by her marriage with Captain Robert 
Stewart Mcdrregor, Portobello, near Edinburgh, had Major Robert Stewart 
McGregor, 50th Regt., died 1885 at Portsmouth. (5) Alison Bisset, born Dec. 
1771. (6) Eliza Bisset, born May 1773, married to Andrew Thom, Brechin, 
and had a son Adam Thom. (7) Anne, born Oct 1774. (8) Margaret Bisset, 
born July, 1776, died April, 1779. (9) Jean Bisset, bom June 1778, died Mar. 
1893. (10) David Bisset, born Dec. 1779. died Nov. 1, 1780. (11) Charles 
Bisset, born July, 1781. (12) Thomson Bisset, of Leith, born March, 1783, 
married in 1812, daughter of Dr. Young, Hull. 

2. Henr3' Bisset, died at sea. 

3. Margaret Bisset, married — Thomson. Their daughtei, Janet Thom- 
son, was married to Peter Anderson, pioneer in opening up the Highlands, ad- 



15 

mitted a procurator in Inverness in 1796, and had, among otliers, Joiui Ander- 
son, a writer to the Signet, author of "Essay on the State of Society and 
Knowledge in the Highlands," and of "A History of the Family of Fraser," 
and Peter Anderson, compiler of the well known series of "(Juides to the High- 
lands, (father of Peter John Anderson, Librarian of the University of Aberdeen, 
and Sec. New Spalding Club; and of l8al)el H. Anderson, author of "An Inver- 
ness Lawyer and His Sons." 

4. Isabel Bisset, married — Scott, of Bogmill. 

5. F.lizabeth, married to — Young, a fanner in Perthshire. 



Andrew Thom, Brechin, had: — 

1. — Adam Thom, A. M. King's College, Aberdeen, Honorarj- LL D., lSo3, 
Judge of Rupert's Land, B. N. A., 1839-55. Born at Brechin, 31 August, 1802; 
married first, Isobel, daugliter of George Bisset* A. M., Rector of Udny Acad- 
emy, Aberdeenshire, and sister of Rev. James Bisset, D. D., Minister of Bour- 
tie, Aberdeenshire, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Kirk of 
Scotland in 1862; Secondly, in 1839, Miss Anne Blachford (died Jan. 23, 1876) 
and had by her an only son, Adam Bisset Thom, born at Fort Garry, Winni- 
peg, Manitoba, Aug. 2, 1843, i;ducated at the Edinburgh University; autlior 
of "Elocution, Voice and (Gesture," (16th Thousand: Marcus Ward & Co., 
London), and compiler and editor of "Garry's Elocutionist," (12th Thousand: 
Marcus Ward & Co., London), Churchwarden of Trinity Church, Gait, Ont., 
Canada, 189! -1895; Lay Delegate for Trinity Church, Aylmer, Ont., to the 
Synod of Huron; elected in 1900, a member of tlie C-'.nadian Society of Au- 
thors. Married, 14 July, 1896, Jessie Monro Howard, daughter of the late 
Richard Howard, Niagara, and has: — Howard Bisset Thom, born 14 May, 
1897, and Dorothy Anne Bisset Thom, born 23 Sept. 1898. 

II. Frances Thom married her cousin, Alexander Bisset, shipmaster, Leith. 

III. Alison Thom, born 1801. died 1879, married to H. Cant. 

I> . John Tullideph Thom, died in Cleveland, Ohio, U. S. A., in 1849, 
married to Amelia, granddaugliter of Henri Le Page, a Huguenot emigre. 



* George Bisset, Rector of Udny Academy, married Mary Anderson, Stri- 
chen, and had among others: — 

i. John, M.D., Newburgh, Sussex, d. s. p. 

2. Tames, Minister of Bourtie; v. i. 

3. Thomas, LL.D., Cantab, Vicar of Pontefract, Yorkshire; d. s. p. 

4. Charles, B D., Cantab, Vicar of Upliolland, Lancashire. 

5. William, Colonel Madras army. • 

6. Udny, d. s. p. 



16 

7. Mary, married to Mr. William Rose, Auchterless; afterwards of Hun- 
tingdon, Canada, (father of late Sir John Rose, Bt., 0. C. M. (J ) 

8. Margaret, married to Sir Arthuur Nicolson, ninth Bart. 

9. Isobel, fiist wife of Adam Thorn. 

George Bi-sset tlied in 1812, and was succeeded in the parish school and 
academy by his son, James Bisset. He was well trained by his father, and en- 
tering Marischal College, Aberdeen, took his degree at the early age then com- 
mon for graduates. He was not quite seventeen when, at his father's death, 
he took the responsibility of so large an establishment; but he was greatly aid- 
ed by his widowed mother and oldest sister. He must have appeared a little 
older than this. There is a good anecdote told of Mr. Bisset When the mo- 
ther of (her afterwards famous son) James Outram came to place him under 
his care, she was struck with his youthful appearance and said he was a vary 
young man to have the charge of so large an estal)lishment, he could not be 
above twenty-five years'of age. "I did not tell her," said Mr. Bisaet, "that I 
was not quite out seventeen !" But though young, he was a tUooghtful youth, 
and had the energy of more advanced years. He was the stay of his widowed 
mother, and proved himself more than a father to all his brothers and sisters, 
whom he carefully brought up and educated, and placed them in positions of 
life, which under Providence, they entirely owed to him. Under Mr Bisset's 
care the Academy flourished, and its fame attracted, as has l)een already men- 
tioned, a large number of boarders and scholars. He kept always a very effi- 
cient staff of teachers, among whom, besides Dr Thorn, already meadgned, 
were James Melvin, afterwards LL T). and Rector of the Grammar School, 
Aberdeen, and his brother George, head-master of Gordon's Hospital, and 
aferwards schoolmaster at Tarves, who began their early labors at Udny. Like 
all schoolmasters of that period, Mr. Bisset studied for the ministry of the 
Church of Scotland, studying partly in Edinburgh, and in 1826 he became min- 
ister of the small parish of Bourtie in Aberdeenshire. The small amount of duty 
needed by the parish gave him leisure to continue his studies, which however, he 
only utilised for the education of his children. He took great interest in public 
aCFairs, became an ardent politician, civil and ecclesiastical, on the constitutional 
side. He was very zealous in every cause he espoused, indeed, the force of 
character which enabled him, at so early an age at his father's death, to under- 
take so serious responsibilities, never forsook him. He was instant in season 
and out of season. He was a prominent figure in the Church courts during 
the prolonged struggle, that ended in the secession of those who formed them- 
selves into the Free Church of Scotland. In 1850, his University of Marischal 
College conferred on him the degree of D.D,, and in 1862, he was chosen Mod- 
erator of the General Assembly, the highest ecclesiastical position in Scotland. 
— "The Thana^e of Fermariyn^'' by Rev. Wni. Temple, Ai. A.